After Sustaining a Brain Injury, Man Rediscovers His Voice at Shepherd Center
Collin Sanders of Woodstock, Georgia, overcomes verbal apraxia in brain injury rehabilitation.
In June 2002, Collin Sanders, 34, of Woodstock, Georgia, rammed into a brick mailbox while driving from a summer job and sustained a traumatic brain injury.
Rushed to WellStar Kennestone Hospital, Collin underwent a craniotomy and stayed in a coma for three weeks. When he emerged, he couldn’t make a sound. Diagnosis: severe verbal apraxia.
“I knew everything that was going on,” he recalls. “But I couldn’t talk at all.”
Collin transferred to Shepherd Center six weeks after his wreck, still unable to talk. He’d planned to attend Bible college to become a pastor but remembers using a communication device Shepherd Center gave him to tell someone, “I’ll never preach again.”
Three weeks later, speech therapist Amy Waite, CCC-SLP, coaxed the first sound out of him: “Mm.”
Waite soon helped Collin turn that sound into a word.
“At 17,” he says, “my first word was ‘mom.’”
A year later, Collin gave an 18-minute speech at his youth camp. Waite and another therapist drove nearly two hours to hear him.
For Collin, that summed up his time in the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program Shepherd Center.
“They really care about their patients,” he says. “The nurses and therapists were great – there were nurses who brought me food they cooked at home while I was there.”
Collin attended Bible college, got a degree at another school in video production and joined his family’s CPR training company. He’s now the center’s training coordinator and personally teaches about 3,000 people a year.
The irony isn’t lost on him: “I talk for a living.”
Collin, who recently became a father for the first time, returns to Shepherd Center to talk to young patients in similar circumstances. His advice: “Keep trying, it can get better. I try not to say it will get better – I can’t promise that. But it can.”
He tells families the same thing.When someone who’s on the other side of the injury walks in and says, ‘It can get better,’ it gives them hope,” he says.
As for what Shepherd Center gave him, Collin doesn’t hesitate.
“They gave me my voice back. Literally.”
Written by Drew Jubera
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 935 inpatients, 541 day program patients and more than 7,300 outpatients each year.